The new technological era is here and the buzzword on the block is ‘metaverse’. Just as cloud technology revolutionised data storage, the metaverse concept is looking to change the way we communicate and the way we gather.
But what exactly is the metaverse? The term was first coined by Neal Stephenson in 1992 in his sci-fi novel, Snow Crash. To put it simply, it’s a digital world where you, as a user, interact virtually as an avatar through the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, meatspace, and assisted reality.
Augmented reality overlays sound, visuals and other sensory inputs onto real-world settings to amplify the user experience. Virtual Reality constructs a simulated environment using technology that transports a user to a 3D computer-generated environment. The intriguing part of the metaverse world is the idea of self-invention or self-reinvention. In these spaces, you get to be the digital version of the person you want to be. You have an ‘avatar’ of yourself that you can create and do similar things that you could do in real-life like meet your friends, go to work, go to the gym, etc. In theory, the metaverse universe permits it all.
A number of startups including game makers (Epic Games and Roblox), software corp. (Microsoft) and social media giant (Facebook, now Meta) are all tossing their respective hats into the metaverse ring. In an interview with The Verge, Mark Zuckerberg said the critical difference between the internet as we know it today and the metaverse is embodiment. Instead of just viewing content, you are going to be in it.
The event industry is a prime sector to see the positive impact of the metaverse in action. The pandemic led to a sharp shift towards virtual experiences, environments and assets. When everything moved online, the virtual platforms gained momentum. Cultural festivities, family reunions, career fairs, etc. all flocked to different immersive virtual platforms. In April 2020, Travis Scott, a rapper, hosted a surreal virtual concert in Fortnite, drawing over 12 million players. This set an early tone for how things would change for the events industry.
Metaverse can enhance the experience of going to an event, and lead to more spontaneity for the event-goers. But, there’s so much more potential than just recreating the experience of going to an expo hall. As 3D digital spaces are a major component of the metaverse, virtual and hybrid events leveraging the metaverse can give events a unique presentation that would be impossible through video streaming or financially impractical if done in the real world. The reason for this is that the metaverse isn’t limited by physical construction costs or building codes. You can create events with an unlimited number of rooms and meeting places so people can attend events or interact with other attendees seamlessly. Rather than a series of online sessions, virtual events can offer a 3D or holographic space for attendees to explore and interact. Can you imagine walking up to a keynote speaker, or an industry giant located on the other side of the planet and asking for advice, or just chatting with them. The idea behind metaverse is, instead of talking to people in 2D, why not join them in 3D?
A recent survey of more than 3,000 respondents conducted by Wunderman Thompson revealed that 74% of those who are familiar with the term “metaverse” are interested in attending a conference in the metaverse territory. 55% of respondents who have never heard of the metaverse or what it entails would still consider attending a conference in the metaverse universe.
Geographical boundaries are shrinking and the metaverse is another step into bridging those gaps. This era of the metaverse will enable unfathomable creativity and open new frontiers for events. It is definitely going to be a great place to meet people for events. It will facilitate business, social and entertainment events. However, with all the possibilities that it offers to connect people at a greater level, it also depends on what people want.